If you’ve been scrolling through your feed in the past week, I’m certain you’ve seen friends and family look surprisingly much older than they are – and it’s not stress or some kind of Harry Potter aging potion in the nation’s water supplies. The phenomenon is an app called FaceApp, as you can tell from the watermark in the corner of most of these posted photos. This trend to have an app modify your face to be gender-swapped, young, or old is exploding all over the interwebs and as harmless as it seems, there could be cause for concern.
The app uses A.I. and machine learning to take your photo and add various filters to make you look younger, older, or swap gender. It makes for a surprisingly convincing result that users are compelled to share with their social networks to compare. I hate to be one of those wet blankets that rains on everybody’s fun filter parade, but the skeptic in me always questions what’s actually going on with these seemingly benign apps going massively viral. After doing some research it seems like several outlets had my same fears of app exploitation. See here.
TechCrunch wrote an article recently about the app’s access to your Photo Library and the tricky UX procedures of user intent. By clicking on a photo to submit, you are giving the app access to that photo to process the filter on its cloud server instead of processing on your phone. So it doesn’t look like the app uploads your complete camera roll to their server, thankfully, but does raise some interesting ethical questions about user license agreements. (Read the article here)
So if you are thinking of downloading the app, chances are there isn’t anything nefarious going on too dissimilar from any of the social media apps you are already using (re the Cambridge Analytica scandal), but you might want to make sure you don’t have any sensitive photos of banking information or passwords. You could always just get old the natural way and hope that selfies are still a thing in 2049.